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Barcelona Marks For Irie, Cseh & Hocking

Jun 4, 2011  - Craig Lord

Laszlo Cseh, the triple Olympic silver medallist behind Michael "The Alien" Phelps, as Hungarians like to call the American, Ryosuke Irie (JPN) and Belinda Hocking (AUS) cranked out meet records on the first day of the opening round of the three-stop Mare Nostrum Tour in Barcelona. 

The session also witnessed strong victories from Commonwealth champions Fran Halsall (GBR) and Alicia Coutts (AUS), whose 57.36 100m 'fly win marked the swim of the day, while world s/c champion Mireia Belmonte had a sense of deja vu as she was pipped for victory in the 800m free by teammate Erika Villaecija before winning one for herself, the 400m medley.

Cseh raced to the best effort ever seen over 200m medley at the Barcelona leg of a tour that takes in Canet in France and Monte Carlo, the Hungarian's 1:58.94 (25.92, 55.35. 1:30.78) victory leaving in his wake Takuro Fujii (JPN), on 2:00.38, and Simon Sjoedin (SWE), on 2:01.01, 0,14sec ahead of Kenneth To (AUS). Cseh's time ranks 6th in the world so far this year. 

Irie was even more dominant in the 200m backstroke as he swept to a 1:54.62 (27.15, 56.21; 1:25.80) victory, just outside the time in which he rules the waves across the world this season. Closest to him was Peter Bernek (HUN), on 1:58.66, and Japan teammate Kazuki Watanabe, on 1:58.87, which locked out Britain's Chris Walker-Hebborn, on 1:59.01.

Hocking turned in 29.95 on her way to a negative split victory in 59.81, a meet record in the 100m backstroke a fingernail ahead of Japanese favourite Aya Terawaka, through in 29.53 for a 59.84 finish. the bronze went to world-titles runner-up in 2009, Anastasia Zueva (RUS) in 1:00.06.

European 100m free champion Halsall stormed to a 25.01 win in the freestyle dash half a second up on the pack, which was led by Svetlana Fedulova (RUS), 25.52, and world 100m 'fly champion Sarah Sjoestrom (SWE), who held on to the European 'fly crown by a whisker over Halsall last year, on 25.53.

Both Halsall and Sjoestrom took to the water soon after for the 100m butterfly in Barcelona today but triple Commonwealth champion Alicia Coutts was waiting and stunned all her rivals with a 27.05 turn on the way to a 57.36 victory. Next home was Australia-based Brit Ellen Gandy, on 58.82, 0.04sec ahead of Sjoestrom, with Yuka Kato (JPN) and Halsall next in on respective times of 58.89 and 59.00. Back in 7th was world 200m champion Jess Schipper (AUS), on 59.60.

Coutts, whose effort was the swim of the day, said: "My coach (John Fowlie) and I worked on not setting expectations coming into this meet and just letting it happen. I am really happy with my execution and am just trying to enjoy the great atmosphere here in Europe."

Australia also celebrated two other victories, the first in the women's 200m free, Angie Bainbridge getting the touch in 1:57.83, ahead of Joanne Jackson (GBR), on the road to recovery from a year or more of serious asthma problems and home in 1:58.55, with third going to Hanae Ito (JPN) in 1:58.77. Coutts also raced the final but had obviously decided that enough was enough for one day, back in 8th on 2:04.64.

World record holder over 200m, Christian Sprenger gave the Dolphins another reason to be cheerful with a 1:00.73 win in the 100m breaststroke ahead of Ryo Tateishi (JPN), on 1:01.01, and Norway's Alex Dale Oen, on 1:01.06, 0.28sec up on Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA). 

The women's 800m free saw Villaecija and Belmonte race alongside Spanish teammate Claudia Dasca to an 8:31.09 to 8:31.84 to 8:31.92 podium for Spain, the only split of Villaecija's on the wring side of winning the first 50m, the race always close, Belmonte taking silver, Dasca bronze.

Belmonte and Dasca were back latter on, battling in the 400m medley. The world s/c champion cracked 4:40 with a 4:39.69 win that left Sarah Thyden (SWE) second in 4:46.26, 0.21sec ahead of Dasca.

The 50m backstroke marked battle rejoined between world champions Junya Koga (100m), of Japan, and Liam Tancock (50,) of Britain. Koga got the better of the field with a 25.19 win over Tancock's  25.35, third place going to a former world champion Gergard Zandberg (RSA), in 25.50. As in the 200m back won by Irie, one of the stars of the world s/c championships last December, Stanislav Donets (RUS) did not manage to make the final.

The man who held the world 50m 'fly mark before shiny suits came along, Roland Schoeman (RSA) got the better of the man who ended up with the world mark, Rafael Munoz (ESP), 23.98 to 24.08, third going to Russian Nikita Konovalov in 24.13, with 2000 Olympic 100m champion Lars Froelander (SWE) 4th on 24.36.

The women's 50m breaststroke saw Jennie Johansson (SWE) upstage all-comers in 31.25, second going to Japan's Satomi Suzuki in 31.83, third to Petra Chocova (CZE) in 32.02. Suzuki also won the 200m in the same session, her 2:25.64 a touch ahead of the 2:26.32 of Spanish teenager Marina Garcia, third going to Australian Sally Foster in 2:26.35, locking out Stacey Tadd (GBR), on 2:27.93.

Evgeny Lagunov (RUS) clocked 49.28 in the 100m free to keep at bay Aussie newcomer James Roberts, on 49.54 ahead of two other Russians, Andrey Grechin, 49.57, and Danila Izotov, 49.77, and fellow Dolphin Cameron Prosser, on 49.95.

The 200m butterfly for men went to Ryusuke Sakata (JPN), on 1:56.40, just 0.2sec ahead of Hungarian teen Bence Biczo, who came back hard but left his challenge a touch too late for the win but did take him past another Japanese rival, Takeshi Matsuda, third in 1:56.75. That locked out world s/c champion Chad Le Clos (RSA), on 1:57.17, and a man who had a brush with anti-doping agents of late when he refused to submit for testing, Dinko Jukic (AUT), on 1:57.50. 

The last race of the day, the 400m freestyle, went to Gergo Kis (HUN), in 3:48.85, ahead of Sergiy Frolov (UKR), on 3:50.89, and Sebastien Rouault (FRA), on 3:51.41.